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The Contribution of Physical Education to Physical Activity Within a Comprehensive School Health Promotion Program

Gabriella M. McLoughlin & Kim C. Graber

rqes cover December 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recognized physical activity (PA) as a critical health behavior and a protective agent against overweight and obesity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). PA is defined as a bodily movement that results in a significant increase in energy expenditure (Bouchard et al., 2012). In particular, moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) represents more intense PA such as fast walking, running, and playing games/sports (Evenson et al., 2008; Treuth et al., 2004). Health benefits of MVPA in children include a reduction in adipose tissue (Khan et al., 2014), increased physical fitness levels (Bürgi et al., 2011; Erfle & Gamble, 2015), improved cognitive performance (Castelli et al., 2014; Donnelly et al., 2016), and a reduction in the risk for comorbidities such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and obesity in adolescence and adulthood (Cook & Kohl, 2013). The CDC, in partnership with the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Committee, recommends that children (ages 4–18) accrue at least 60 minutes of MVPA each day (Physical Activity Advisory Committee, 2018).

Despite the health-promoting benefits of PA, children and adolescents fail to meet national PA guidelines (Troiano et al., 2008). Data from the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) show that males are typically more active than females across all age groups, and activity declines as children progress into adolescence (Troiano et al., 2008). These data are reflected in the United States Report Card for PA in children and youth (National Physical Activity Plan Alliance, 2016), showing that only 42% of children ages 6–11 meet PA recommendations, decreasing to 7.5% and 5.1% for 12–15 and 16–19 year-olds, respectively. Findings from reports highlight poor adherence to guidelines, emphasizing the need to promote PA behavior.

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